Tag Archives: children

70’s Kids; The Drifter, The Domesticated. And The Anti-Christ.

6 Jul
Post 2 – for ReadKirklees

I’m interested in what people do or don’t believe – whether it’s matter of faith (or non-faith) or attitudes towards society and the world. Usually though, we only ever hear the views of the grown-ups; of them rattling on with their profoundities (and profanities if you’ve got a gob like mine.) So, I have to confess a bit of bias towards the children here for once. I really enjoy hearing childhood views and beliefs; the kind of things that they come out with before us grown-ups have gotten to them too much, before we have tampered with their natural inclinations and intelligence. I won’t however, bore you with the philosophical perambulations of my own children (my little boy’s spiritual views don’t really reach the heights of sophistication. No. They tend to run along the lines of; ‘Hey – did you know that ‘God’ is ‘Dog’ spelled backwards? Cool or what? I think I prefer dogs mostly, though.’)

70's kids. Me and my bro. He is worshipping Dog. I'm looking as though I prefer the concept of God...

70’s kids. Me and my bro. He is worshipping Dog. I’m looking as though I prefer the concept of God…

But whilst hanging out in a convent this week (you think I’m joking don’t you..?) I stumbled across a book, in a dusty old corner of the nuns’ library. It was published in the 1976’s and was an analysis of what 70’s kids did and did not believe about matters of faith and about the world.

A few things struck me after reading it (and the biggest thunder-clap of all … I have saved until the end of the post, so just hang-fire.) But yes, first of all – it immediately hit me right between the eyes, just how much more self-assured the comments of the boys were during this survey. In general, their philosophical comments were far more concrete, more absolute. There was  a lot more chat about science, fighting and killing than the stuff that the girls came out with. Time and time again, the girls would treasure the concepts of being good and kind and of fairies and of Christmas. They also mentioned the environment a fair bit more than the lads did. Now of course – we could get into a huge discussion about ‘nature/nurture’ here – i.e. ‘Own up. Who got to the girls already?’ And in the end, I have to say that quite frankly – I got sick of the more sycophantic ‘honour thy father and mother’ type of brainwashing that the girls kept trailing out in the survey.

The boys; using nature's fruits as hand-grenades?

The boys; using nature’s fruits as hand-grenades?

Hence there being more quotes from males rather than females below. (And actually, there were quite a few lovely little lads who ranted on about how appalling the whole Miss World thing was – thereby redeeming themselves in my eyes). But my own observations are this; if you accept the fact that a lot of the terminology that the children were using way back then (‘Coloureds’, ‘pouffs’ etc) wouldn’t really be used by modern-day children, it amazed me how frighteningly similar some of the sentiments expressed below are to the stuff we hear from kids growing up in the 20-teens.

The girls; more interested in cake and domestic-things?

The girls; more interested in cake and all-things domesticated?

 

I’m not making any particular judgements here – I just found it to be a fascinating little snippet of the way kids who were aged 8-16 years in 1975, were already thinking about life. So from the many 1000’s of statements that were collected in this project, I’ve included some of the more interesting ones below – including their original spelling and grammatical mistakes in the essays that they were asked to write as part of the survey. We start with the oldest children first:

“It seems to me that everyone believes and preaches it but never makes peace or gives any love. I therefore come to the conclusion that most of the human race is hypocritical and by the way this definitely does not exclude me.” (Boy aged 16)

“I do not believe in Christianity, or Islam, or Buddhism, or Hinduism or Zoroastrianism or Skihism or Communism or Paganism or Spiritualism or any ‘ism.’ I simply believe in Him, what He is or where He is or why He is or how He is I dont know. I only know I need Him and perhaps love Him and He is the life and He must be wanted.” (Boy aged 15.)

“and then we appear on the scene, a perverted species. The only animal who kills for the joy of it, mates for the joy of it, puts other animals through suffering and hardship for his own pleasure. If God had wanted to wreck the Earth, he’s done it by putting us on it. I believe that any one who gets angry with a locust is a hypocryt.”(Boy aged 14)

“Friends are like grouves on a recourd. If the grouves were the same, the recourd would omit one note. But it is the combination of the different grouves which make the tune and it is a combination of different friends which make life.” (Boy aged 15)

“I am a firm believe in racial segregation. For this country I recommend that blacks should be deported…. Some people might argue against my idea’s using the statement ‘They came here with the slave trade, after we had did all those horrible things to them.’ We should keep them here now.’ To this I would reply ‘So what?’ I was not there at the time, it’s not my fault that they are here. I didn’t bring them. It seems to me that there is hardly any milk and honey for us let alone giving them away!” (Boy aged 15)

“It’s difficult to say what I really believe in because my views change so often.” (Girl aged 15)

“I belive in wild life and probably not many people relases that the beuty of mother nature is a beuty that no one can get better.” (Girl aged 15.)

Aw. I mean.. Awwww. It's all he could do? Surely not. Bless him.

Aw. I mean.. Awwww. It’s all that this little boy said that he could do. Surely not? Bless him.

“I believe in Boxing becaues it is the only thing what I can do.” (Boy aged 14)

“…A large, pride in England campaign should be started with renovations of Empire days and other institutions and every household should have a flag and mast.” (Boy aged 14)

“From 1981-1988 the devil or anti-Christ will rule the world. Any borderline cases will have to go around preaching the word of the Lord to go to heaven. In 1988 Christ will come down and take more Christians up to heaven and the rest with perish on earth when it explodes.” (Boy aged 13)

“Western mans values have struke me as strange to say the least. Not all but many men work from nine to give doing a job they hate going back to a house that looks the same as everyone elses, has dinner and watches the box, and he does this for 50 weeks a year until 65 for what? by the time he’s retired he is too old to do what he always wanted to do. I’m determined not to tall into this trap. I intend to drift around working when I need the money, staying rough and with the principle aim of enjoying myself and living my life to the full. It’s idealic I agree but that doesn’t make it any the less practical. And if I finally settle and marry or live with somoen I will make show I keep my mobility and that she keeps hers. (Boy aged 14.)

Is the Devil's Route for the idle drifters? Or for the 'Borderline Cases/?

Is the Devil’s Route the final destination for the idle drifters? Or for the ‘Borderline Cases’?

“I believe in being different and unequal because we are not born equal and even if we were all made equal after only a few weeks we would all be different again” (Girl aged 13)

“I believe in helping around the house as much as possible.” (Girl aged 12)

And I have to end the most memorable quotes with this 8 yr old girl. Sensible lass;

“And we have to help people if they fall over. And you have to help Mummy sometimes. When Mummy is doing something you have to leave her in quietness.”

So what do you think? Which child were you in this study? I’m hoping that you were a bit more like the lad who wanted to shirk off and doss about with a fully mobile lady-friend, as opposed to the boy who was banking on us ‘borderline cases’ having to roam around preaching the word of the Lord in a world under the clutches of the AntiChrist – until the planet explodes in 1988 (because to be honest, he sounds like a bit of a killjoy.)  Could we track down some of these children? Did the little girl who wanted to help people from falling over end up marrying Ed Miliband?  Is anyone else in agreement with me that ‘milk and honey kid’ turned out to be Nigel Farage?

Well, whatever you think – and however your only little noggin developed in terms of your own belief system from childhood to being a fully fledged grown-up – I’m pretty sure that there is one thing that we’ll all agree on. Take a look at the picture below and you’ll see what drew my eye to this book in the first place.

So very wrong. Savile on the moral and spritual beliefs of small children. No wonder this book caught my eye.

So very wrong. Savile on the moral and spritual beliefs of small children.

Yes, that’s right. Despite the excessive molly-coddling, the Disclosure and Barring Checks overkill, the safe-guarding and nanny-stating of children today – believe you-me, I’m kind of glad that we’ve moved on from the 70’s.  I don’t think that any of the funny little kids (albeit some of them with their more outlandish and weird views) involved in this study ever got to meet Savile, but far – FAR – too many of the little souls did during this decade.

And I also feel right sorry for the author and the team involved in this study. Because it was a flippin’ ace read – and a warning to all of us who write books and who seek celebrity endorsement – perhaps the times should be a-changing on this kind of thing; particularly as the high quality self-publishing industry is booming these days. Perhaps we should instead, be mirroring the example of the 13 year old lad who said; “I believe in ME. I am one of the luckiest people in the world. Being unwanted as a baby, I was very lucky to have someone who would look after me and take me into their family. No one can wish for more than this…”

I believe in ME.

Hope to God that some of Savile’s victims – and any survivors of child abuse can somehow return to the innocent and funny little beliefs of their childhood, and reclaim their own belief in themselves.

 

And I'm sorry, but even his so-called endorsement was atrocious. Sick, sick man.

Even his so-called preface was bloody atrocious.

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Never Go… Say NO (A Social Experiment)

16 Feb

“It’s easy enough to know who’s good and who’s bad on the telly…but people are not always what they seem to be, in real life…”

No, this isn’t me posting a satirical blog about Nigel Farage et al. Rather, in celebration of half-term and The Kiddies being palmed off to various holiday clubs, outdoorsy-play schemes, neighbours and grandparent’s stomping-grounds, I thought that it might be timely to remind us all of the bread n’ butter of our childhood horrors; the British Public Information Films.

The quote provided above, is taken from the 1981 film (slightly less scary than the 1971 version) and the subject material of today’s blog all began when my 10 yr old, her dad and I were chatting about the fact that her little brother was spending the day away from us all. She says; “Well, I bet he’s having a right nice time of it. Going swimming and that.” “Yes,” I reply, “I hope he behaves for Grandma. And is sensible. Especially important to be sensible during half term and when you’re away from parents and your usual routine. Do they tell you that at school these days? Before the holidays?”  “What d’yer mean?” she asks. “Well,” husband begins, “The things that you must never ever do…You know…”

HIM: ….Stuff like – don’t venture onto iced over ponds and lakes. And in – fact – beware of all open water swimming and whatever you do, never eat a heavy meal beforehand and….

10 YR OLD: Eeeek! He’s going swimming! He is! I just said!

ME: Yes but Grandma’s with him. And she’ll only let him have a Waggon Wheel beforehand or something.

10 YR OLD: He is so spoiled.

HIM: And….don’t climb electricity pylons … Oh God. That awful film – where the kid climbs one and gets electrocuted and falls off. Remember?

ME: No – but you’re older than I am. (To daughter) So don’t they show you films at schools about dangers… in the holidays? And, well. Dangers in general? Dangers-for-all-of-the-time.

10 YR OLD: No.

ME: Don’t you get a policeman coming in and describing that if you got run over by a bus – you’d look like a piece of cotton wool soaked in red ink?

10 YR OLD: No…

HIM: Is that what you got, then? In Manchester?

ME: Yeah. They pensioned him off soon after that, so I heard.

HIM: Bet you remembered to stay away from buses though.

ME: Absolutely. So…hang on sweetie. Who warns you about the accidents and the hazards and the mad strangers who might steal you?

10 YR OLD: Dunno. Well, just the teacher. Goes ‘BlahBlahBlah be careful of ponds. And did-you-know-that-you-can-actually-drown-in-a-millimetre-of-water’. And all of that.

ME: So no videos? Or stern policemen?

10 YR OLD: Nope.

HIM: That’s rubbish! Every child deserves to be scared witless! Chip pan fires! Wandering off on your own! Fastening your seatbelt!

ME: And what about the Stranger Danger stuff?(To him) Hey! Remember the car that flashed red to show you that the man in the car was really evil? And the bad stranger fella… whose face suddenly went all nasty and twisted to show the kids that you can’t judge whether someone is a sicko by the way that they look?

HIM: Yeah. Why don’t they show that kind of thing anymore?  And the puppies – they always had puppies. Or said that they had. And tried to give you sweets.

Beware of men who lure you away to foreign countries and offer you small, fluffy animals...

Lured away by strange man… with promise of small, fluffy animal.

ME: (To daughter) So tell me… what would you do? Do you know your stranger-danger code? Because you’re very friendly with most people aren’t you?

10 YR OLD: Yeah. But I can usually tell who’s a weirdo and who isn’t.

ME: Ah but no. That’s the whole point. Horrible stranger sorts can often appear to be very nice. And charming. So… what would you do if someone had like, a really nice bag of something yummy and offered it to you?

10 YR OLD: I wouldn’t eat them because they’d be poisoned.

ME: No – that’s just in America where they do that. Try and poison little kids at Halloween. That doesn’t tend to happen here. So what would you do…?

10 YR OLD: I wouldn’t touch them if it were fruit! You know me! I don’t eat any fruit at all!

HIM: (Sighs.) Yes, we know. So, okay. It’s sweets then! Your favourite sweets.

10 YR OLD: So long as they aren’t Haribo. I hate Haribo. Most kids don’t. But I do.

ME: Fine, fine! So it’s not Haribo, okay? It’s … a bar of Cadbury’s Caramel. And…. some nice puppies to go and play with.

10 YR OLD: Do you really think that I’m stupid? I’d tell him that I’m allergic to chocolate!  I’d just LIE!! And say that I preferred kittens, anyway. Honestly! You two!

ME: Well. That’s good enough for me. But anyway, when we’re back home – I’m tracking down those videos on youtube and you can watch them. The ones that me and your dad were exposed to as kids.

10 YR OLD: NO WAY! NO WAY ARE YOU MAKING ME WATCH SICKO VIDEOS!!

ME: Don’t be silly. They’re fine. Look at me and your dad! We never got drowned or kidnapped or electrocuted. They never did us no harm!

10 YR OLD: Ahem – you stand corrected, Mother. You did electrocute yourself once. You fell off a chair trying to change a lightbulb in my bedroom.

This little fella wasn't too far away from the monkeys who electrocuted me. I remember my wits about this furry-one, I can tell you!

This little fella wasn’t too far away from the monkeys who electrocuted me. I remember my wits about me however, when faced this furry-one – I can tell you.

ME: That wasn’t my fault. That’s ’cause your dad was away and he should have been doing it.

10 YR OLD: AND…. Dad also said that when you lived in Africa you got electrocuted when you tried to feed a monkey some sausage and you forgot that the fence was electrified.

ME: Yes, okay. That IS true.

10 YR OLD: …And that it went ‘BANG’ and you flew backwards…and you were more embarrassed – than dead. And Dad said that all of the monkeys couldn’t believe how stupid the mad white lady was.

ME: …But all the same….

10 YR OLD: AND you ran off with a man to Africa. Who gave you a kitten. So this is all a bit hypno-critical, isn’t it?

ME: Let’s not get into that. And your Daddy isn’t an evil-stranger sort. But, as I was saying…You’re watching those videos. And I’m going to judge your reaction. I believe in using my children as a social experiment.

10 YR OLD: Noooooooo! I REFUSE TO WATCH IT!!

ME: Well if you do, that’ll be no telly for the rest of the holidays for you.

HIM: I mean –  you’d think we were trying to force her to watch ‘Saw’ or something!

ME: …Rather than Jimmy Saville glaring at us until we fasten our seatbelts. Because I have a strong feeling that some of those videos now contain some dreadful ironies….

————————————————————————————-

So that’s that. And for those of you who want to ‘remind’ yourselves, or hey – for those of you who have never been blessed with watching these informative wee videos issued by the British Government – here is….

1971 – ‘Never Go With Strangers’ – the one that I most vividly remember watching (at the age of 7)

1981 – ‘Say No To Strangers’- 10 years later and the government released a different version. I remember this one too. And not just because of the host of ‘later to be famous’ 80’s actors. Timothy Spalding fiddling with a Rubik’s Cube etc.)

Now, give me a few days to expose my own children to such traumatising material from the 70’s and 80’s and I will soon report back…

Zip It!

10 Jan

‘Zip It!’ A popular expression in our house. Normally employed for smaller human beings who are gobbing off beyond a reasonable level. But the recent horror of Charlie Hebdo has left me and many other parents that I know, wondering if we now need to be uttering this phrase a bit more at the kids.

Interestingly, it seems to be the more switched on, politically aware, well-read and generous folk who are fretting the most about their children saying or doing something that might offend someone else – in this stoked-up atmosphere of religion, politics and race.

Regular readers of this blog will know that me and mine represent everything that your anti-multiculturalist sorts love to hate. So you might think that I have all of the perfect answers when it comes to discussing such sensitive issues with my kids. In fact, no. No. And I certainly didn’t have all of this off to pat before Charlie Hebdo.  Here are some recent examples of the level of dialogue that has always been ongoing within My Fam:

Scene 1 Namibia (southern Africa). Me, Him and 2 kids.  Driving through a police check-point on the road outside of the Capital. Unlike the rest of us – my 6 yr old lad is a chap of very few words….

10 yr old: It’s not fair! They never stop us. They never search us!

Him: You don’t want to be searched. Look at the people in the cars over there. They’re really naffed off.

10yr old: But it’s not fair! I really wanna get searched! We’ve been through these road-blocks about twenty times now and they never stop us. Why?

6yr old: It’s because we’re white.

Me: Whaaaat?

"I'll swap you a Stop n' Search exemption for the Right to Wee"

“I’ll swap you a Stop n’ Search exemption for the Right to have a Wee”

Scene 2- Namibia (southern Africa) a few days later. Visiting a national monument which is only usually visited by people from the different black ethnic groups. We are desperate for the loo.

10 yr old: This is awful! They keep telling us the wrong way to the toilets and we’ve been back three times now and ask and they still just flap their hand at us and tell us to go the wrong way.

Me: The seem to think that we’re just being a nuisance. We should have gone to the loo before we got here, though. Oooh – I’m bursting!

10 yr old: Well, they’re hardly busy… we’re the only ones here in the car park! Why are they being so rude and unhelpful? I feel like they don’t like us! People! Why aren’t you helping us? Before our Mum wets her pants!

6 yr old: It’s because we’re white.

Me: Pardon?!

Of course, in both of these instances the normally oh-so quiet 6 yr old was making a mere observation. One which very much shocked us. Because of his lack of verbosity, we simply haven’t  sat with him and explained to him issues of race, apartheid, politics etc in the way that his older sibling might have had our attention…

Scene 3Leaving our semi-rural immediate neighbourhood we are now driving through an inner-city suburb, somewhere Up North.

6 yr old: Hey, Mum! I think you’ve got us lost, Mum. Hey!

Confused of Africa? Or of UK?

Confused of Africa? Or of UK?

Me: Why?

6 yr old: Because I think…we’re in Africa

10 yr old: What are you on about? You little weirdo.

6 yr old: Look – outside – everyone’s looking like…we’re in Africa! It’s well cool!

10 yr old: Yeah, right – Stupid! Do I see any giraffes? Or those termite mound things? It’s raining! Are you totally thick, or what?

6 yr old: Well – that one over there in the doorway-thingy is a street child. I think.

10 yr old: It’s a drunken man asleep in a pile of sick! You idiot!

Me: Stop being horrible to your brother. I think he only means that there a lot of black people in this area.

6 yr old: Yes – that’s what I meant. I just never knew there were so many black people in England.

Him: (to Me) Keep him away from the English Defence League and their lot, eh?

6 yr old: (sulking) And anyway. I want to go back to Africa now. It’s better than living with you lot.

Me: (to Him) I don’t think his sentiments lie with the EDF, dear. It’s just his use of language and terminology that we perhaps need to work on…

Scene 4 After a troublesome time in the playground

6 yr old: I don’t like them brown boys. I won’t ever play with them.

Me: (shocked) What do you mean? What’s wrong with them?

6 yr old: I just don’t like them.

Me: But … well. You can’t say that you don’t like ‘brown boys.’ You shouldn’t…

6 yr old: Well I just don’t like any of them.

Me: But you can’t say that! You can’t go round saying things like that. Your cousins are… well – ‘brown.’ Aren’t they?

6 yr old: Yeah. But they’re different. I know them.

(NB – It turned out that what he meant was the Pakistani-British boys all knew each other and he found it hard to break into their games. One week later it was “Mum – I always play with the brown boys now and they’re all my best friends!” “Great,” I replied. “But shouldn’t we maybe not use the word ‘brown?'” Only to be corrected by daughter who goes “Well, my auntie always says she would rather be called ‘brown’ because that’s the shade she is as she isn’t the colour of black or of Pakistani. And calling someone a ‘Paki’ is just nasty and upsets people and like… has gone out with Martin Luther King’s time. Or whatever. Although…I heard someone say ‘that Paki shop’ the other day. But there were old and a bit stupid so you can forgive ’em”)

Scene 5 – Our kitchen. Children sharing out coloured sweets.

10 yr old: I’ve made little piles of the different ones, see? But I’m not having any of the blacks as I hate them…..(thinks)  Oh no!! Did I say something racist, Mum?

6 yr old: It’s okay. I hate the whites. So it all works out fair dunnit?

Got sick of discussing matters of race. So promptly lobbed the bitter lemons back at the grown ups.

Got sick of discussing matters of race. So promptly lobbed the bitter lemons back at the grown ups.

These kind of conversations go on all of the time in most households across the land. And each of these little scenarios were remembered by me – not because the kids said something cute and funny – but because my own reaction felt confused. Blustered. I wanted them to know ‘how we try and say things’ in the adult world. But without doing the whole politically-correct overkill thing on them and without squashing their right to expression and to just be… an innocent little kid.

But sure – there was a bit of me that was thinking ‘Gawd, PLEASE don’t say that in school – will you?’ Even though the school knows us, our background and work etc and probably realise that I don’t stomp around in jackboots of a weekend.

So if I feel like this – with my own family, experiences and interests… how the hell must most other caring and concerned parents feel about what their kids hear, see and say – at this particular moment in time?

I can only remind others (and myself) that all of us – whatever our ethnic or religious background – we are only human if we trot out some ‘corkers’ from time to time. At my Nan’s funeral for example, the Minister said “Edith was the kindest soul ever. Who still clung to what some perceive to be old-fashioned language. But this ‘Blackie Preacher’ knew the love in her heart and the kind of woman that she was, so he never minded the out-moded words.”  And a Pakistani friend told me that on preparing to marry a white woman he was told by his elderly relative “first thing you must do is to teach her to wash her hands properly. If they’re not a muslim, these goras are very dirty.”

So maybe we shouldn’t be panicking and maybe we should be more gentle with the kids and with ourselves. Less of the gut reaction of telling the kids to Zip It (unless they’re calling me a ‘clumsy old tart’ again.) If we are the kind of people who are worried about causing offence then our hearts are already in the right place.

And maybe those of us who genuinley care about this kind of thing are exactly the sort of people who can stop the status quo from worsening. I believe that the attach on Charlie Hebdo was a deliberate act to kick off yet another secular versus religious and racial war.  It didn’t even have as sophisticated an intention as trying to flag up discussions about the freedom of speech. It was an act of contempt and hatred –  spread by psychotic nutters who claim to be religious but who haven’t got a breath of compassion or love left in their bodies. People who are rubbing their hands with glee at the confusion and division that they have created between folk this week and because of whom – hundreds of thousands of more innocent civiliants in the Middle East may well end up losing their lives.*

So let the kids speak. They often make far more sense than the adults do.

*Note the cunning refusal to write ‘muslims’ and ‘non muslims’ there. Because we are all just human beings at the end of the day…

No Tantrums in the Townships

4 Jun

(Part 3)

I’ll admit that something I was rather stressed about when returning to Namibia was the way that my kids would behave in public. It doesn’t take a genius to notice that in general, African kids who live in the sub-Saharan countries are less … hyper … shall we say – than kids from the West tend to be.

And there are plenty of reasons for that, which I won’t go into right now.

So, watching our kids’ reactions to life in some of the poorer parts of the former township areas was very interesting. At first, as we entered the squatter camps, our son came out with “Hey – little houses made of old rubbish! Like metal and tyres and fings.  Can I have one like that? So coo-wul!” Then, as it dawned on him that this way of life wasn’t ‘play at tents in the garden’ and that he was face to face with kids who had no shoes, who had only one (dirty) set of clothes, who had no parents, who slept rough, who begged in the streets and who played in the rubbish dumps … he grew a lot quieter.

His sister was unnaturally quiet too. As we stood with friends from the less poor parts of town who were helping us to create a list of the neediest children, my daugher nudged me and asked “What on earth is that lady doing – stamping on that broken old chair?” I glanced over. “Ah – she’s made herself a sort of washing machine. She has to carry the water in and she’s stomping on the soggy blanket to get it clean and using the frame of the chair to help her to do it. Pretty clever eh?”

Nearby her baby was yarking for some more breast milk. The woman noticed us and came over to us, baby now hanging from boobie. She asked us to buy something warm for the child as their winter was approaching “He has just one thing to wear and it’s already cold in the night,” she said to us through a translator.

“What do we do?” I asked my daughter. “We were only supposed to be buying for the school aged children.” “Mum!” she murmured “I’ll buy him something myself. Look – he’s only got one sock!”

Both kids were still adjusting to what they were seeing.  In fact, I’d never seen either of them behave so meekly (without being told to.) Sure the day was a scorcher and the adults were talking about dull logistical and political stuff – but my two stood in a corner as they clasped each others hands and stared at the children in front of them.  Normally – in England for example – they would be sighing ‘Boooring!’ and ‘Where’s the Monster Munch? I’m ‘ungry!’ or  thumping each other. So this was all very unfamiliar behaviour from where I was standing…

It was all about staring.  (Not for too long … see my previous posts on ‘eye contact’!) And the brown and black children with holes in their pants and sores on their faces stared back at the funny white children who had such brightly coloured clothes and such pink and sweaty faces.

I think that it took about fifteen minutes for the reality to sink in for my wee english kids – the harsh way of life that these other children were leading.  I did experience a moment myself of ‘is this all a bit too traumatic for my two to cope with’? But I soon got over myself. And the kids got over themselves too.  But please note that this was not a deliberate ‘I’ll show my kids how flippin’ well grateful they should be’ experiment (ha, no – they’re still ungrateful little monkeys, if you ask me!) Rather, it was a lesson in 2 stages. Stage 1 being ‘Look. Observe. Show, Don’t Tell.’ And Stage 2 being ‘Right. What do we do now? Get your sleeves rolled up.’

For Stage 2, we were going to be People On A Mission! And despite their blood sugar slump and exposure to the midday sun and the shock of what they were seeing – my two didn’t even need to be asked. They sprang into action and began to engage with the children as their parents talked more logistics.  The 6 year old was well-impressed “Look – the kids make well coo-wul kites out of old bin liners! And they made a football out of old plastic bags!” Whereas the 9 year old was rather more indignant; “But this is awful! The tiny ones are playing around a rubbish dump? Why has no-one cleaned it up? Mum – you can’t ever moan about our bin-men at home again after this!'”DCIM100SPORT

Thanks to our fantastic friend who lives in Epako, we spent a good hour sorting out which were the neediest of the children that we could help. Many of them were orphans (but more on that tomorrow.) Returning to our friend’s home in a less poor part of the former township (but still very much ‘going without’ by our own standards) my son was bonding very well with the local lads and fully integrating himself into location society – wandering from home to home in the search for playmates. greg loves epako

One of the most ‘telling’ moments for me was when the children playing in the area wanted to ask him about his T shirt. I think that it was also a very revealing moment for my lad too. Sadly, he is a little chap who often feels very hard done to, because his evil Mum and Dad don’t buy him all of the stuff that he thinks that he should possess in terms of superheros, LEGO etc etc. This video clip says it all really. Check out the surprise on his face as he realises that his old T shirt – one of his many Marvel Superhero tops, and his Skylander hat – has utterly fascinated the boys. And that they don’t know who these superheroes are… And oh. How they would LOVE to wear something like that …

The dialogue on the clip here involves my boy trying to explain to them who the heroes are and what they do. His sister correcting him (of course!) And then the both of them attempting to tell jokes to the other kids (who clearly hadn’t a clue what they were on about – but they all laughed lots anyway.)

And that was the brilliant bit for us – bringing the kids had NOT been a mistake. Bringing the kids reminded us just what this was all about … Children just love each other’s company regardless. And they want to share their stuff and to have fun together …

(MORE TOMORROW)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charity *did* begin at home …

2 Jun

DOES CHARITY MATTER?   (Part 1)

Should we care about the way we talk to each other as adults – and to our children – when it comes to the subject of ‘charity’ and ‘giving’? When our schools send requests for a few quid so that our kid can dress up as a certain bear/sport a nose/wear pink/design a motif … should we simply dismiss the marketing money and power of these massive, national charities?

Or should we invest our donation pennies in the local charities down our streets? Those hospices, campaigns, the day care for elderly centres, the appeal for church spires and the struggling pre-schools … who may have fed, housed, saved, educated and employed people whom we actually know?

Or perhaps we might feel that the ‘on my doorstep’ connection is a little bit too obvious. That far more than enough people already give locally – and that the smaller, more imaginative charities in our country and overseas – desperately need our attention?

The purpose of this series of blogs over the next few days is NOT to make anyone feel bad about whether they do or do not ‘give.’ And if they do give – who and how and where – they should be donating to. Rather, these blogs – and the story that I will be telling  – aims to be a bit more educational. And with that in mind – a lot of the blogging will be from the perspective of the children involved (because otherwise – my daughter’s school teachers will be out to get me!)

Ingredients:  Tell a 6 and a 9 year old that they will be travelling to Namibia, southern Africa in order to try and help some of the most impoverished children in the world. Throw in the support of 2 wonderful west Yorkshire schools, parents and a few lovely friends and over the next few days you can see what the recipe produced…

WATCH THIS SPACE!

 

Yes, our pesky kids might be far too obsessed with having fun and acting the fool, rather than focussing on the SERIOUS things in life. But when push comes to shove, the wee varmints have a lot to teach us … (PHOTO: TWO TIDDLERS IN THE FORMER TOWNSHIPS…)

 

 

Word Play

26 Mar

SCENARIO ONE

Child (aged 9):  Mum – why can’t I read the book that you wrote?

Me:  You know damn we…er I mean… you know why, sweetie. It’s got some swear words in it.

Child:  What? Like, you’re worried I’m going to go and repeat them to my teacher or something?

Me: (wearily) Yes. Something like that.

Child: Actually – I got in trouble with Daddy the other day, over words.

Me: Why? What happened?

Child: We were on our canal boat and I made him play at sailors with me. He’s so bossy and he always wants to be the Captain though. I have to put up with being the First Mate everytime. So anyway, we were doing the throw the rope thing – tying it up along the towpath and trying not to fall in the dog poo and all of that….and we were doing funny sailor-type voices.

Me: And?

Child: And – well I forgot the word – I’d been trying to think of a good word that sailors might have called each other in the old days. I meant to shout ‘Scallywag!’ at him, but it came out wrong.

Me: Right. So what did you shout?

Child: I yelled “Oi! Chuck me the rope, you SCUMBAG!”

Me: Oh dear. What did your dad say?

Child: He was trying to act all cross and crabby, but he couldn’t really because the people on the  boat next to us were laughing.

——————————————————

SCENARIO TWO

Me:  (to 6 year old son)  Look – this is the font where you were baptised in as a baby. See how someone has carved it so beautifully into the shape of an angel. It’s incredibly old, this font.  The vicar dipped your head into the water here.  You were so cute and small! And some people believe that it makes a baby belong to God more if you do that, but I’m not sure what….

Child: ARRGHHH ARGHHHH ARGHHHHHH! (running away)

Me: What are you doing? Ssssh! Stop it – come back!

Child: (calling over to me)   ARGGGHHH NO WAY! I’M NOT GOING NEAR THAT THING!!!

Me: Don’t be silly!  What’s wrong?

Child: It’s the Angel of Death! It’s going to bite me!

Me: What on earth are you on about? What makes you say that?

Child: It’s in a song! A song that she’s always singing at me – she sings it in my ear all of the time – Moses and the Angel of Death – what bites people.

Me: Ah. Your sister. Has she been singing scary songs at you again?

Child: Yes. And she tells me about this Angel what smears blood all down your bedroom door and they GET the firstborn boy – and that’s me. And I’d better  stop stealing all of her comic books. I’d better watch it, or else – the Angel will bite me.

Me: I think that she means ‘smite’ you dear, but… Whatever.

It won't bite you - but it might SMITE you! After he overcame his fear...

It won’t bite you – but it might SMITE you!  (And I think that the angel should have an exclamation mark after the word ‘Children’ this would be so much more representative of my own experience i.e. ‘CHILDREN!’)

 

 

 

 

 

St Paul’s Protestors Really Half Term Tightwads

1 Nov

Has it occurred to anyone else that the so-called ‘anti-capitalist protestors’ outside of St Paul’s are actually a bunch of tightwad parents who are trying to save money on London hotels, by pitching camp in the middle of the City?

This photo said it all for me really. Bet the cheeky swines are off to see ‘The Lion King’ in the evening and dining at The Ivy. Pah!